Go to ‘Stories’ link above to download your own .pdf file to read at your leisure. (6000 words approx.)
First written in 2003
This revised version – 2012
“Where am I?” Silence…
It was dark all around, very dark. She remembered hitting her head, someone holding her, quite firmly, and then dropping her… but before that … nothing. This didn’t particularly alarm her because she was in no pain or discomfort. She imagined that this is how a foetus must feel inside the womb of its mother. Dark, warm, and bathed in blissful, comforting ignorance. She couldn’t remember how she came here. She tried to think about what had happened; she needed answers. Concussion, that’s what she was experiencing and a sudden loss of memory! Yes, that must be it, she was definitely not in a womb waiting to be born. She was almost sure of that.
As she lay motionless in the dark she looked around hoping to catch a glimmer of light to help her take in the surroundings. The air was warm and dry with a slight musty aroma, she could make out the walls and perhaps a ceiling above her, but it hurt her eyes to strain so much. She squeezed them shut, pressing them closed tight. Blinking them open a few times they adjusted to the darkness again and she began to see what was around her. She realised she was not alone. Suddenly she felt her senses sharpening, ears, eyes, nose and mouth all working overtime to try and establish where she was. It was as if some primal instinct had kicked in and she felt a rush of adrenalin throb through her entire body. She strained all her available senses for a clue to where she was. Still no light, but slowly her eyes became used to the dark and she could make out other shapes around her, there were lots in fact, and she suddenly felt uneasy.
The blanketing darkness covered her like a heavy woollen rug casting silence all around and at the same time she was aware of a great pressure on her lower body. The discomfort was alarming so she tried to move once more, but the weight was too much.
Then without warning a light appeared above her. At first only a small crack, but it gradually grew larger until a huge window was cast back and glorious bright light poured in on top of her. Stunned a little by the abrupt transition from darkness to light she couldn’t adjust in time to see her surroundings clearly. Before she knew what was happening she felt the firm grasp of a hand again and a queasy sensation of movement. A cool shiver danced down her back, playing sensuously with the hairs at the top of her neck. Although this was intrusive she couldn’t help feeling a certain familiarity with this embrace and she found herself relaxing in submission. Pleased to be lifted from her resting place out into the warmth of the daylight she drew in a deep breath and her eyes adjusted to the new light.
“Hello, can anyone hear me?”
As he carried her to a new resting place she listened to his voice . He spoke quietly, with a slight European accent and a warm gentle tone. He didn’t hurt her with his grip, and she could sense that he didn’t intend to either. She was also aware of someone else in the room but his grasp prevented her from turning round to see who it was. As he gently laid her down he drew a thick curtain over her vision and said,
“We’d better get going my dear. We’re going to be late. Did you let them know we’d be bringing Lizzie with us?”
“Yes, I phoned last night. They said that was fine, their Jack is really looking forward to playing with her, he’s a bit rough but I am sure Lizzie can hold her own.” The second voice belonged to a woman the sound of which relaxed her a little and she wondered whether they were talking about her, was she called Lizzie? She just couldn’t remember.
“Hello! Can’t you hear me? I don’t know where I am? Can you help?”
“I’ll get the car,” the man replied as he left the room. She heard a door close and footsteps fading down a hallway. He picked up a small set of keys and turned to look out of the window.
“Wonder if he’ll relax this time, it’s been a hell of a long time…?” he heaved a huge long sigh which misted the pain of glass in front of his face. “Right, it’s getting late, let’s get this over and done with,” he turned on his heels and strode out to the car with her.
John was a man of few words and he always liked to be on time. His wife, Angela, was well aware of this and tried to calm his nerves as they walked to the car.
“You know we could come home early tonight. It’s been a while since we had an early night and I think Lizzie will be exhausted after a day with Jack. We should have no interruptions from her,” she smiled and squeezed his hand gently with mischievous intent. He smiled back and raised an eyebrow, picking up the implied carnal activity like a bloodhound on the scent of a wounded fox.
“Hey, we don’t have to go you know. We could go upstairs right now,” he paused in mid stride briefly before she could reply. “Now is early, now would definitely be an early night!” He didn’t expect an answer and thoroughly enjoyed the face his wife pulled at the thought of a midday roll between the sheets. They both new this was something that could not happen easily now though. The days of spontaneous love making were long gone, in fact it was quite a feet of organisational prowess to get them together with enough time and energy to even attempt something resembling sex.
As she became aware of the soft texture of her new seat she smiled and rolled her eyes back with pleasure. The texture of the fabric on her skin was divine, and it wasn’t long before she found herself drifting off to sleep. During the journey the car had the effect of rocking her to sleep like a baby. Her dreams were intense and confusing, vivid and not at all coherent, but this was usual for her active little mind. She found that travelling like this made her feel quite secure and made it difficult to stay awake for any length of time. Perhaps it was the rhythmic sound of the engine, or the soothing massage of the radio on her ears. She lost herself in relaxation and drifted away on her thoughts, giving in to fatigue and confusion. The next time she awoke her two travelling companions were talking about something, she couldn’t quite hear what they were saying because the radio was still on, but she heard snippets, they were definitely talking about a girl, a girl called Lizzie. Still very disoriented she began to wonder if they were talking about her after all. Then she had an idea.
Not content with filling the gaps of her strange surroundings with her imagination alone she decided to have a look and see what was going on. The effects of her concussion must have been weighing her down as she found it almost impossible to move from her seat. She noticed a loose fold in the fabric to her right so peered through it. The gap was small enough for her not to be spotted but one offering more than enough of a view of the car they were in. She saw nothing that was familiar, which fuelled her growing frustration and anxiety. She wondered how many people loose their memory like this. Whilst she was speculating on her problem she realised that she didn’t even know her own name. This sent a flush to her cheeks, her vision went blurry as she felt tears welling in her eyes. Her heart sent the blood racing through her veins. Fatigue and disorientation had dampened the seriousness of her predicament, but now she saw the worrying implications. How was she ever going to explain how she felt to anyone; she didn’t even know who she was, where she came from, how old she was and she couldn’t even recall her own face. She felt helplessly lost. It was at this point in her frantic trawling of distant, scratchy memories that her thoughts were interrupted by something she saw.
She caught sight of the lady sitting next to her for the first time. She was transfixed. There in the passenger seat was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Her face was ageless, with deep green eyes set between a delicate brow and perfectly formed cheeks. Her nose was not too long but slender, and her mouth formed a stunning pout even when she was relaxed. She wore almost no makeup, just a touch of mascara to highlight the eyes and a lip gloss that shone continuously. Her hair was dark, but not black; it gave off a chestnut tint when the sun caught it. Her hair fell onto her face like that of a Greek goddess, almost as if the thick ringlets were positioned and placed, then carefully chiselled from a single piece of marble. She wore a faint smile, one of self satisfaction, and her eyes hinted at a thousand unspoken wisdoms. She looked confident and strong, this was surely a great lady. She hoped they might be related, perhaps it was her mother.
“Damn this concussion,” she said to herself, “why can’t I remember who I am? And why doesn’t anybody talk to me?”
Staring in appreciation she watched the lady in the car for two or three miles, she didn’t move a muscle.
“What’s your name?” she attempted to say, but only felt a cool whisper hiss from between her lips. The car continued to rumble along the wooded road and occasionally a shot of bright sunlight would clear the branches and light a patch of tarmac ahead of the car. Every time they drove through a patch of sunlight she watched the lady next to her close her eyes and take in a deep breath of contentment. The car filled with the suns warmth and in those moments she looked like an angel.
“Excuse me. What’s your name?” she ventured again, but she still could not be heard above the noise of the radio and the sound of the car. Her throat felt rough and dry. Before she could try a third time the man started talking again and she could feel the car slowing down.
They all left the car and walked up a long gravelled pathway that lead to a large white colonial house. He carried her with him which she was used to by now. She felt no threat not now that she had seen his companion, she must be safe.
“Besides, I am still very weak and confused,” she justified to herself. She did feel a certain amount of security in just being an observer instead of trying to communicate. It didn’t seem important to her, she just wanted to quietly watch and listen and this would give her a chance to look for clues as to her identity. However she had already decided that they knew more than she did and were probably looking after her.
The house overlooked a wide bay with wooded hills on either side. At the foot of the steps to the house there was an ornate iron gate with the initials ‘G’ and ‘S’ woven into the detail at the top. Neatly kept boarders ran along the bank to the front of the property. From the outside the house looked like a beach house from one of Edward Hoppers paintings, only much bigger and not as remote. Clad in wood and painted white it looked like it should be standing on top of a grassy dune on the west coast of America. At the top of the steps there stood a vast decked area, half of which was covered by a pergola that stretched the length of the house. It was a reversed dwelling style property with the bedrooms down stairs and the living rooms upstairs. Due to the steep incline the first floor was the floor that you come in on and the downstairs was like a basement. Underneath were the four bedrooms and a luxurious bathroom. The house had been built into the hill side so all four bedrooms only had windows at the front over looking the bay, but the view alone would sell this property in a flash.
A powerful and sweet scent of jasmine mixed with exotic passion flowers filled the air as they stood on the porch at the front door. The house was in good order and had recently been treated to a new coat of paint. A slow, intermittent wooden creak could be heard from a swing seat to the left of the door as it swayed in the steady breeze. This caught John’s attention for a moment and he reminisced about his childhood and the long, hot summer holidays that he ached for while he was away at boarding school. Swimming in the lake, bike riding, drinking lemonade by the bucket load and sitting in his hammock out on the porch with his favourite comic. His father would buy him a comic every time he came to visit him at school and he kept every one of them. He had perfected the reading under the covers scam in the dorms, but was rumbled one night when matron caught him. Suspecting the reading matter to be of a more explicit nature she was so embarrassed to find a copy of ‘The Beano’ that she forced him to do all the washing for the dorm for the next two weeks, by hand, just to save face and teach him a lesson.
“Come on John let’s go in, Lizzie’s dying to see Jack.”
He was dragged out of the distant, hazy 1986 school laundry room and back to the doorstep of his mates’ house.
The door bell chimed and John groaned at the hideous sound; the latest novelty jingle ‘ding-donged’ inanely at him from the other side of the door. Graham’s childish fascination with toys and gadgets was often overwhelmingly tiresome. ‘That is what friends are for,’ he thought; to make you realise that sometimes you are not so dull yourself. John and Graham had known each other for a long time, their parents were friends so they had grown up together. When John married his long-time girlfriend Angela, Graham was asked to do the wedding photography as he had a keen interest in the subject. He had been pestering them for months and finally they gave in to him if only to get him off their backs. This was an opportunity for Graham to try out his new camera equipment and impress his friends. It was also something he should have thought twice about. The pictures were a disaster. He forgot to load the film in the main 35mm SLR camera which was the one he used for most of the formal shots. He used a digital camera for other candid shots which served as a sad illustration of what should have been a treasured record of their day. Shots of drunken friends arses and distant relatives neither could name confidently were by no means any sort of a consolation. The only pictures John and Angela had of their wedding were those that friends and relatives took on the day. John learnt not to trust Graham with anything that important again. Graham spent many years trying to make it up to them, but nothing he did seemed to ease the guilt that he carried. John and Angela had forgiven him years ago, but Graham couldn’t forgive himself, at least not for the next few millennia.
Ten years ago Graham married Sue, a local doctor. They had very little in common but then that’s probably why they stayed together even though they hardly ever had time to see each other. Graham worked as a head hunter in the city, his own company, and spent much of his time travelling to and from interviews. This in turn allowed him the opportunity to develop a rather unhealthy attachment to hotels and fast food, which in turn helped him cultivate an impressive waistband. He and Sue managed to coexist as a functioning marital unit, a couple who thrive on a lifestyle of speedy decisions and passing moments of passion, but no sign of real affection or love. They obviously spent time enough in each others company to make Jack, their seven year old ‘Tasmanian Devil’, but their relationship was tenuous at best. They had only known each other six months before they were married; the sort of whirlwind romance that would raise a few eyebrows when people talked about their history together. John and Angela would sometimes make drunken bets as to how long they would stay together, slightly tongue in cheek, but they both new that Graham and Sue didn’t have anything even close to what they had. They seemed comfortable living the lie, for now at least.
Little Jack was unique. A compact bundle of pure energy, and he seemed to have an endless supply of it ready to inflict upon anyone within his blast radius, and at any moment. Jack was overflowing with excitement as he came racing to the door jabbering, giggling and calling for Lizzie.
“Is Lizzie here? Dad, dad where is she?” he spluttered, sending globules of chocolate mouse over the carpet and onto the door step.
“Finish your mouthful Jack,” said his Dad.
“Hi Graham,” John said quickly, wiping mouse from the front of his jeans.
“Alright John, mate, how are things?” he cried with big, welcoming open arms.
“Fine. Just fine. And you?”
“Couldn’t be better,” he paused briefly as he looked Angela up and down. He had to pick up his jaw as he said, “You look lovely Ange, is that a new hair cut? It must be! You are positively radiant! Maybe it’s your skin, a new cream or something? Well what ever it is it’s working! Come on in, come in, come in. Sue’s out the back let’s go through.”
“Thank you Graham,” Angela replied. “How about a new approach next time!” she muttered under her breath, tired of his pathetic attempts at being overly complimentary all the time. Occasionally it was a little creepy. She’d told John to tell him to cool it, but that message had obviously not been driven home hard enough.
“Dad where’s Lizzie?” moaned Jack, tugging at his father’s ill fitting Bermuda shirt.
“Jack, here I am!” There on the door step appeared Elizabeth. Jack’s eyes lit up and he squealed with excitement. He bounced over to her and said;
“Come out to the garden Lizzie I wanna show you my den. I spent all day yesterday makin’ it an it’s big enuff’ for you s’well if you want. Do you ‘ave a den at your house? Let’s make a secret gang and…” his excited ramblings faded as they both tore off through the house and out into the back garden.
From her quiet comfortable vantage point came a sigh and a chuckle as the first piece of the jigsaw clicked into place. Lizzie was the girl they had been talking about before and so John and Angela must be her parents. She must have been very quiet in the car, but then again she must be around six years old and they are usually much more interested in the scenery outside the car than any sort of communication with parents. Yes! She was happy with her deductions, but was sadly no closer to finding out about herself.
“Damn that concussion!” she thought once more.
There was something that puzzled her though. These people were obviously friends, so why was she not introduced at the door? She shifted her position as best she could. For all their comfort these fabrics were stiflingly hot after a while and the warmth of the midday sun was increasing. Perhaps she knew them all, maybe she was the only one who didn’t know who she was! Maybe she was really ill and everyone was making her feel comfortable by not drawing attention to it. But then surely they would at least say hello?
It was a hot Sunday in July and the forecast was good for the next two weeks. It was set to be a cracking summer and they had arranged to meet up for a barbecue, the first of many. They also knew their kids would be demanding numerous visits, ‘sleep-overs’ and camping weekends in the coming months. As they walked through the hall and into the kitchen Graham paused at the fridge to collect a couple of beers. They steamed as they sat cradled between his sweaty arm and his ever growing stomach. With a bottle of wine under the other arm he led them out to the rear decking area and back into the now scorching sunshine. As John walked out onto the deck he put her down casually on a chair by the back door. She saw the whole group of friends now from this seat and for the first time she saw John. This was a pleasant surprise for up until now she had only heard his voice and felt his grasp. Now in the brilliance of the midday sun she saw that he was just as striking as Angela.
“Hello, can… can anyone hear me?”
The food was delicious and the drinks kept flowing like water from a burst pipe. Graham couldn’t help himself; he always had to keep the alcohol flowing, even on a Sunday afternoon. They had huge pork chops glazed in a honey and mustard marinade, leak and stilton sausages from the local butcher, and chunky vegetable kebabs dripping in a tomato and basil dressing. Added to this was an assortment of salads, bread and condiments. Graham and Sue loved to entertain. They would spend hours preparing for a meal or a party, and no matter where they were, entertaining at home or out with other people, they always liked to be the last one’s standing. John spent the afternoon massaging his brain with more beer, partly to dull the sound of Graham, but also to try and forget that tomorrow was Monday and he was back at the office. Angela enjoyed a glass of wine with her meal and then went on to fruit juice. Lizzie and Jack played together in a happy isolated world of their own.
True to form Graham and Sue continued to act out the important rolls of host and hostess, to the exclusion of their guests. Nobody really cared what went on that Sunday afternoon, it was a glorious day and they all just relished in the warm sunshine. This domestic scene was the epitome of a ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoon’ and was probably being mirrored a hundred thousand times over across the country. Time passed quickly that afternoon for everyone except John. He had much on his mind, and thinking wasn’t easy when you had Graham in your ear like a trapped mosquito.
‘It has got to be impossible for this man to stop talking,’ John thought to himself. No sooner had he paused to take a breath, then he was off again on a completely different subject. John soon realised all Graham needed from him during these conversations was the occasional ‘Hmm!’ or ‘Yeah!’ and every now and again a ‘Really!’ So he found a happy medium and drifted in and out of thought occasionally interrupting Graham and sparking some new rant or grievance. He fancied himself quite a master at this game, even giving himself the title ‘master chat jockey’ being able to think on his own subject whilst also riding Grahams conversation.
Angela and Sue cleared some of the lunch table and brought out tea and an assortment of biscuits to the veranda. This allowed them a few quiet moments in the house on their own. It was Angela’s only chance to find out if everything was ok with her and Graham after the incident with his secretary. She was not surprised to find out that things were never going to be the same again, and they spent a while discussing revenge tactics and pay backs, most of which involved scissors, paint and a furnace. When they came back out Sue thought that John looked suspiciously like he was asleep, and the fact that Graham was still talking to him didn’t change her mind. She knew Graham all too well and felt sorry for his long suffering friend. She sat down beside him and gave him a little nudge under the table. Sharp, pointy toed high heels make for a speedy return from a light sleep! The kids suddenly appeared at the table and lunged for the double chock chip cookies, and the next feeding frenzy began.
John, Angela and Lizzie were getting ready to go. The spoils of the barbecue lay scattered all over the table. Most of Jack’s food had landed on the decking via his white Pokémon tee-shirt. It always amazed Angela that they dressed Jack in white so often. It didn’t even register with Jack though, and why should it at his age. They had to use extra strong washing powder to get the stains out but they still bought him white. He was certainly no angel and well suited to his nick name, ‘Tornado.’ Sue was more worried about him doing the right thing than actually helping him to learn anything; he learnt everything the hard way and often on his own.
They worked their way through the house towards the front door. John hated this part. It took forever to get the family to leave, never a simple procedure. No matter where you were going or how late you were, they always said goodbye five or six times before you got anywhere near the door. You would say your goodbyes…then nobody would move! So next tactic would be to stand up and say it again, motioning towards the door. Then perhaps the others would also stand up but somebody would then start up another conversation. So fifteen minutes of goodbyes and uncomfortable pleasantries, false promises and wishes to see each other again soon and they were all standing at the front door. Once, last year, John had managed to get as far as the bottom gate before he realised nobody was with him, so he walked back to get them and they didn’t even notice he’d been gone. The two women continued their conversation and left the men looking around anxiously. John felt a strange tension in the air as each man tried to think of something to say that they hadn’t covered already. Somehow they knew that anything the other said would be insincere and simply a time-filler, so a few comments on the weather and chat about a film that was on TV that night filled the time sufficiently.
When he walked past the coat rack in the hall John realised he had left his jacket on the seat outside.
“Sorry guys, I left my jacket out the back. I won’t be a second,” he darted back out onto the deck and found it lying exactly where he had left it. He reached forward to grab it and paused for a moment clutching the side of the table. His head throbbed and the signs of an early hangover mixed with a little sunstroke bounced around the inside of his skull. He wondered if he would manage the evening’s activities promised by his wife.
“John can you see me? Say something to me, no one has noticed me all day.”
She hadn’t felt at all hungry so didn’t mind that they left her out of the meal. She had been watching and waiting all afternoon desperate to discover more and to be included. She gave one final effort to wriggle forward but simply couldn’t move. At that very same instant she felt the heavy fabric around her burst open with a rush of air and she found herself plummeting to the ground. The fall lasted an eternity, or so it seemed. At first the world was spinning and blurring as she fell, but half way through her descent she reached a steady fall and saw the ground racing towards her as clear as day. Then there came an almighty clang as her head connected with the unforgiving ground. She had fallen head first onto a paving slab beside the barbecue on the edge of the deck. As the world faded slowly to black she could hear a dull pulsating metallic sound. Finally she was engulfed in silence. Lost again…
She awoke with a start, cold and damp all over. The huge pounding in her head made it very difficult to focus on her surroundings. The stars were shimmering at her from high above and she felt an intense feeling of déjà vu. She blinked a couple of times and lay there quietly thinking. She began to wonder how she had ended up on the floor, and why she couldn’t feel her legs. It was very quiet and she didn’t recognise where she was. She tried to move but felt very heavy and lethargic, so she thought she would wait a little until she was strong enough to get up.
“Where am I? Who am I?”
There was no wind and the sky was clear, she had a marvellous view from where she lay, flat on the ground staring up at the stars. She was completely motionless, staring and thinking. Sleep came to her once more and soon she was lost in her familiar but surreal dreams.
As he lifted his wings high on the cool night air he glanced down beneath him and surveyed the familiar landscape as it rolled past, flowing like a river of trees. Occasionally he dipped down to the tips of the firs, brushing their uppermost needles with the down draught from his wing beats. He enjoyed a playful few minutes before the serious task of searching for food and twice flew below the canopy to dart and weave between the upper branches picking his way between the foliage with precision.
He always flew fast and hard for the first ten minutes if it was a late jaunt. Tonight was no exception! He cleared the forrest and headed across the lake towards his usual first call, the pick-nick area on the far side of the lake where kids would spend their summer holidays randomly distributing the packed lunches that their parents would prepare for their trips to the lake. The bins would usually give up plenty to keep him busy, but recently he had found many a treat left on the tables and thrown all over the grass. He climbed skyward for a few feet and scanned the shoreline, no movement, no humans, that meant the night was his. He climbed a little higher as he passed over the lake and headed for the few houses near the shore. Once he had found a gold necklace on the door step of the large house on the hill over looking the lake and ever since then he made it routine to buzz the properties within reach just incase his luck was in.
The first house he came to was large and white. It threw a cold reflection of moonlight in all directions like it had a light source all of its own. He had once stollen a silver parcel from a table on the veranda here and almost returned to the nest with it. However he had dropped it in the lake on his return and almost plummeted in himself when he realised it contained two pigeon carcases. He had decided then and there to investigate his treasure in more detail before flying off with it in future.
When he had circumnavigated the entire property and seen nothing of import he forged on to the next house, one he knew all too well. This was the house that bit him! He had been visiting the backyard of this particular property for almost a year, both day and night. Many of his wonderful things had come from this house and he liked the people here for their careless nature and wasteful lifestyle. Unfortunately he had been clocked. On a number of occasions his brash thieving had been witnessed by the owners and he was regarded as a pest. Twice he had been shot at, but it was not the incompetent potshots that had cause him harm, it was the little brat of a child that they spoiled so readily. He had been lying in wait in a home made den at the bottom of the garden, sitting quietly with his sling shot. They had even gone to the trouble of baiting the site with a pile of shiny objects that wouldn’t fail to gain the magpie’s attention. The net result was a shot square on the bird’s breast that tumbled him four feet across the garden. The boy erupted from the hide, squealing with delight; a naive war cry that the bird will certainly take to his grave. The only reason that the magpie survived this ordeal was the intervention of the cat. It ran across the path of the child and tripped him up throwing them both into a nose dive and hurling the boy into a tumbling, writhing mass of arms, legs, claws and flying fur. The magpie shook off the attack with a few short hops and he took to the air once more. This house he remembered well. He approached with caution.
He flew high over the roof and circled slowly, watching the doors and windows for movement. Silence, stillness, his heart was racing. Then something caught his eye. It winked at him in the moonlight as he flew over the house to the rear. He arched his head back and banked sharply on his left side to make another pass, again the moonlight bounced back at him from the ground. A cold, dull, beam of light shot out to meet him as he passed over the house once more. Not too quickly for him not to pinpoint it’s exact location though. The wise old magpie began his descent, his keen eyes firmly fixed on his quarry.
He stood over it wondering why it had been left outside like this. He was suspicious and reluctant to spend any time at this place but he looked more closely at it and he knew there would be only one outcome tonight. His fear of this place sank to the back of his mind, he wanted this, he had found it and he was going to have it for himself. He had seen them many times before, but never had he found one on its own.
It felt cold and hard between his beak and not at all easy to grip, but he was determined to return to the nest with this beauty. He spent the next few minutes flicking it up and adjusting its position in his beak until he jammed it almost to the back of his throat clamping down hard on both sides. He picked up his wings and thrust himself back up into the sky, high above the house and the trees he flew, back to the woods towards the west. His plans of a late night snack had now left his mind.
“Oh… I can fly!”